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Toolbox Talks and How to Engage a Tool

Posted by Andrew Watters on

Toolbox talks are designed to encourage and engage workers in problem-solving practices. Unfortunately, they often become a ho-hum chat where workers are not focused, are casual in their contributions, and repetition leads to laziness. In fact, some attendees can make an absolute 'tool' of themselves and create genuine problems. Today, we'll look at how you can avoid that happening.  

Why bother? Because a poorly run toolbox talk is more dangerous than no talk at all. A poorly run session induces casualness and can confuse rather than clarify. While toolbox talks aren't meant to be fun, there are ways to make them more engaging, and you can still make them an excellent experience for your workers.

In this article, we're going to share some tips and suggestions on:

  1. Engaging your workers, so they take toolbox talks seriously.
  2. Using a 'Toolbox Talk Form',' Topic Guidelines' and 'Topic Register'.
  3. Increasing your WHS Safety Meetings effectiveness.
  4. Saving on a bundle purchase of the resources featured in this article.

Engaging Workers so they Take Toolbox Talks Seriously

How can we engage better? It begins with recognising that toolbox talks aren't about tools, and they're definitely not about boxes. They are about the 'talk', so our goal is to make the talk the best it can be. These four guiding aims are worth remembering, and they have been influential in the design decisions we have made. 

A good toolbox talk will:

  1. Identify hazards and risks,
  2. Help workers stay aware of them as they work, 
  3. Enable the implementation of appropriate safe work practices, and
  4. Contribute to the larger project, site and enterprise WHS management system.

Here are ten quick tips to increase worker engagement, and then we'll look at how to apply them through the effective use of resources:

  1. PREPARE WELL: Think through whether you really need the talk, what is known, what you will demonstrate or discuss, and what questions you will ask. 
  2. ANTICIPATE THE TOOLS: Think about who tends to interrupt, mentally wander, or check out entirely? Think about how you can engage them, and if they display those attitudes or behaviours this time. How will you choose to respond?
  3. CALL-IN: Whenever possible, give advance warning about meetings and topics. It allows people to mentally engage and contribute. 
  4. CALL ON: If a team member loves, or is particularly good at, a process, call on that person to lead or contribute to the discussion.
  5. ASK OUT: Wherever possible, ask questions and engage with their ideas and suggestions. Keep the focus out there, not on you.
  6. LIFT UP: Acknowledge and appreciate the crew who are doing the right thing. Positive reinforcement usually works, even with adults.
  7. LAUGH IT OUT: If there is a laugh to be had, enjoy it. Let it happen.
  8. SHARE IT OUT: Share the responsibility. If there are many aspects to cover, invite your team members to lead different discussion areas.
  9. APPRECIATE: Acknowledge and value the contributions you receive.
  10. SEEK FEEDBACK: When you're all finished, follow up and get feedback. 

Making Resources Work For You

To help you achieve these goals and enjoy the journey, we've designed the following flexible and helpful resources that will help your Toolbox Talks and WHS Meetings:

  1. Toolbox Talks Form … where a record is made of the talk.
  2. Toolbox Talks Topic Guidelines … which provides talking points and focus areas for discussion.
  3. Toolbox Talks Topic Register … where compliance records can be made regarding toolbox talks that are topic-specific.
  4. WHS Meeting Minutes … where minutes can be recorded and all necessary minute items are shown.
  5. WHS Meeting Procedures … which guides you through the essential and optimal elements of the meeting.

Let's take a walk through each and briefly explain how they help. 


Resource 1  |  The Toolbox Talk Form 

Like the WHS Management System of which this forms a part, the Toolbox Talks Form is very user-friendly. It is also instantly downloadable, fully editable in MS Word format and can have a logo added. Importantly, it is also expandable because no meeting is the same in content or length. 

On the form, supported by a framework to ensure things are not forgotten, you can:

  • List the discussion topics and any resulting actions or resolutions, 
  • Have attendees sign to acknowledge participation, and 
  • Record any corrective or ongoing action requirements. 
  • Create an accurate record to demonstrate compliance, and empower the Safety Officer to complete and review any resulting issues.

Essentially, the Toolbox Talks Form is your record of what was discussed. 

You can purchase the form as a single Toolbox Talks Form for just $13.50 (all prices are EX GST) or as part of a special bundle deal (giving you added savings).


Resource 2  |  The Toolbox Talks Topic Guidelines 

What if you don't know what to discuss, are unsure, or have concerns you might miss something? For these situations, the Topic Guidelines is here to help. Prompting discussion and instruction on important issues, it's a cheat sheet for safety.

This resource covers 27 different topics and is designed to empower free-flowing and thorough communication. 

By way of example, one of the topics, "Manual Handling", includes:

  • A general introduction to the topic and safety issues.
  • 4 x observations and checks that concern workers and equipment.
  • 8 x method tips for workers before they make a lift.
  • 5 x technique specifics for the lift itself,
  • 5 x body safety fundamentals when transferring or moving a load,
  • Discussion prompts for other ways to avoid manual handling hazards.
  • A listing of other relevant documents found within the {WHS Management System} or {Management Plan}.

The 27 toolbox topics included are:

  1. Safety Responsibility
  2. Unsafe Acts
  3. Incident and Near Miss Reporting
  4. Manual Handling
  5. Risk Assessments
  6. Horseplay
  7. Traffic Control
  8. Barricades and Warning Devices
  9. Housekeeping
  10. Injury Prevention - Eyes
  11. Injury Prevention - Hearing
  12. Heat-Related Stress
  13. PPE - Hard Hats
  14. PPE - Foot Protection
  15. PPE - Hand Protection
  16. PPE - Knee Pads
  17. PPE - Respirators
  18. The Right Tool for the Right Job
  19. Tools – Hammers and Chisels
  20. Tools – Table Saw
  21. Tools – Electricity and Power Tools
  22. Tools - Pneumatic Nail Gun or Powder Actuated Tool (PAT) Safety
  23. Working at Height
  24. Excavation / Trenching Safety
  25. Confined Spaces
  26. Working Around Cranes
  27. Fall Arrest Systems – Safety Harnesses

You can purchase the form as a single Toolbox Talks Topic Guidelines (at $62.50) or as part of a special $98 bundle deal.

Resource 3  |  The Toolbox Talks Topic Register 

This register lets you keep a detailed but easy-to-understand record of who has participated in training and what topic-specific training they have been exposed to. This helps demonstrate compliance and enables you to keep track of worker participation and needs.

This 3-page resource compliments the two already mentioned resources. Like the others, it is included in our flagship resource, the WHS Management System.

This resource is part of our WHS Management System, however, you can also purchase the form as a single Toolbox Topics Register ($27) or as part of a combined special bundle deal.

Resource 4  |  The WHS Meeting Minutes 

This document outlines all the necessary elements of your WHS Meeting minutes. It provides a frame of reference for both efficiency and effectiveness, and helps you ensure that actions follow words. 

You can purchase the form as a single WHS Meeting Minutes ($27), as part of our WHS Management System, or as part of the special bundle deal.

Resource 5  |  The WHS Meeting Procedures

Your WHS meetings help identify problems, solve problems, communicate priorities to workers, and enable you to meet the compliance demands of work health and safety legislature. It's worth getting these meetings right!

The WHS Meeting Procedures guide is designed to provide no-fuss yet thorough information about meeting frequency, agenda-setting, suggested topics, election procedures and more.  

This 2-page resource is also included in our WHS Management System, can be purchased individually as a single WHS Meeting Procedures ($27) or as part of our bundle deal for $98 (EX as always).

Taking Control

We know that toolbox talks matter, especially for the 'tools' that don't like to pay attention. We believe these strategies and resources can reduce the 'tool' factor, make your meetings more effective, and help you meet WHS compliance burdens. 

Follow the links if you'd like to check out the Toolbox Talks Form, Topic Guidelines, Topics Register, WHS Meeting Minutes, the Procedures, or the bargain bundle. Purchased individually, they are still a very affordable $143.50, but as a bundle, are priced at just $98 + GST, which is a more than 30% discount. If you’d prefer, you can also call us on 1800 304 336, and receive friendly and specialised assistance. As always, our resources can be quickly tailored (where necessary) and working to solve your problems today!


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